Although parental alienation is not a new concept or phenomenon, experts have only recently begun to understand the serious mental health consequences associated with it. Horizon Plymouth counsellors work with children and adults who are affected every day and often see first-hand how far-reaching the effects can be. As part of our effort to raise awareness for parental alienation in order to decrease its occurrence, we have published several articles on our website that go into great detail about the signs, effects, and consequences, but this article will briefly inform about each of these topics in order to give a general overview of the issue.
What is parental alienation
Simply put, parental alienation is when two parents are separated (usually divorced) and one parent manipulates the children against the victim parent so that they turn against them—seemingly for no reason. The parent forces the children to “choose a side” and effectively reject the victimised parent without cause. The children might feel hatred and loathing for the alienated parent without even being able to identify a cause for their feelings. The alienating parent might subvert the children by making false claims about the other parent—including abuse and neglect—withholding communication, or attempting to turn the opinion of friends and family against the alienated parent as well. Parental alienation is classified as a form of emotional abuse and should be taken very seriously when it occurs.
Impacts of parental alienation
It impacts both the children involved and the alienated parent. Children often demonstrate an inability to form securely attached relationships even well into adulthood and are much more at risk for substance abuse and mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety. Many children also suffer from self-image problems following parental alienation and report feeling guilt, shame, and a decreased self-respect for many years into adulthood. Victimised parents often mourn the loss of their child’s love and can suffer from anxiety and depression onset as well.
Signs of parental alienation
Spotting signs of parental alienation early enough to seek help can be key in preventing the damage that can occur if the emotional abuse is left unchecked. And, while it can be difficult to definitively identify parental alienation initially, there are warning signs that might be an indicator that the children involved might be at risk.
- Parent “confides” all of the negative details of the divorce or separation to their children in order to paint their former spouse in a bad light
- Parent makes false claims of abuse, neglect, or mistreatment at the hands of the alienated parent—especially if they use these claims as an excuse to prevent their children from seeing the other parent.
- Parent is controlling of communication between alienated parent and the children and restricts visits, phone calls, and information.
- Children appear angry, resentful, or hostile towards the alienated parent, seemingly without cause
How can counselling help with parental alienation?
If you or your family has been impacted by the negative consequences of parental alienation, reaching out to one of the trusted counsellors at Horizon Plymouth can be a good way to begin the journey of healing. A counsellor can help by acting as a nonbiased party to help you understand your feelings regarding the situation and offer advise for overcoming any resentment or damaged relationships that you may be experiencing. If you feel that you are suffering from the effects of parental alienation, it is important to seek help quickly, as mental health effects can be far-reaching and long-lasting. Contact Horizon Plymouth today to schedule your initial consultation and start your journey towards better mental health today!